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Glossary of Basic IEP Terms

Written by Evolve's Behavioral Health Content Team​:

Alyson Orcena, LMFT, Melissa Vallas, MD, Shikha Verma, MD, Ellen Bloch, LCSW, Lianne Tendler, LMFT, Megan Johnston, LMFT Meet The Team >

Learn more from this glossary of basic IEP terms, providing definitions for essential special education terms to know, including those related to Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Whether you’re a parent, educator, or advocate, this resource is your guide to confidently navigate the world of special education terms to know.

Accessible Educational Materials (AEM)

Materials designed or converted in a format that allows students with disabilities to access educational content effectively, such as digital texts, braille, or captioned videos.


Adjustments are made to the learning environment, instructional methods, or materials to ensure students with disabilities can access and participate in educational activities on an equal basis with their peers.

Accommodations and Modifications

An IEP should detail various accommodations that must be provided to help students access the curriculum, while modifications involve changes to the curriculum itself or the standards.

Annual Goals

Specific objectives outlined in the Individualized Education Program that a student is expected to achieve within a year.

Annual Review

A yearly evaluation and update of a student’s IEP to assess progress, review goals, and make any necessary changes to the services or accommodations provided.


Various methods and tools are used to evaluate a student’s skills, abilities, progress, and areas of need.

Assistive Technology

Devices, tools, or software that support individuals with disabilities in performing tasks, enhancing communication, and accessing educational materials effectively.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Commonly known as a neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by challenges in social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviors.

Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP)

A plan developed to address challenging behaviors exhibited by a student, including strategies, supports, and interventions to promote positive behavior.

Due Process

In IEP terms, due process is the legal procedure to dissolve disputes between parents and schools.  Resolution or due process may entail evaluations, identification or placement of a student with disabilities.

Eligibility Determination

The process of determining whether a student qualifies for special education services based on their identified disability and the impact it has on their educational performance.

Emotional/Behavioral Disorder

A condition involving persistent emotional or behavioral patterns that significantly impact a student’s academic and social functioning.


The process of gathering information and data to assess a student’s strengths, weaknesses, abilities, and needs to determine eligibility for special education services.

Executive Functioning

This IEP term refers to the cognitive skills necessary for planning, organizing, initiating tasks, managing time, problem-solving, and self-regulation.

Extended School Year (ESY)

An ESY refers to any special education and related services that are provided outside of the regular school year to prevent regression or loss of skills.

Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE)

The right of students with disabilities to receive an education that meets their individual needs, provided at no cost to the parents

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act is a federal law in the United States that ensures students with disabilities have access to free appropriate public education (FAPE) and receive special education to meet their unique needs.

IEP Team

A group of individuals, including parents, educators, and professionals, who collaborate to develop, review, and revise an Individualized Education Program (IEP) for a student with disabilities.

Individualized Accommodation Plan (IAP)

A plan developed for students with disabilities that outlines specific accommodations and supports needed for equal access to educational opportunities.

Individualized Education Program (IEP)

A legally binding document that outlines the educational program, goals, and services for a student with disabilities.


This is the practice of educating students with disabilities alongside and simultaneously with their non-disabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate, fostering a sense of belonging and promoting diversity.

Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE)

This is an evaluation that an outside expert conducts to gather additional information about a student’s needs, abilities, or disabilities.

Intellectual Disability

A cognitive impairment characterized by limitations in intellectual functioning and adaptive behavior.

Least Dangerous Assumption

In IEP terms, this is a principle that assumes the least harmful or restrictive explanation or intervention when determining appropriate services or accommodations for a student with disabilities.

Least Restrictive Environment (LRE)

The educational setting that allows students with disabilities to be educated side-by-side with their non-disabled peers to the maximum extent appropriate.

Learning Disability

A neurodevelopmental disorder that affects one or several of the basic psychological functions involved in understanding or using language, leading to difficulties in reading, writing, math, or other academic areas.


Changes made to the curriculum or assessment expectations for a student with disabilities to accommodate their individual needs, potentially altering the content or lowering academic standards.

Occupational Therapy

A related service provided to students with disabilities to help develop, improve, or maintain their functional abilities, fine motor skills, sensory processing, and independence in daily activities.

Parent Involvement and Participation

The active engagement of parents in the educational decision-making process, collaborating with school personnel, attending meetings, and contributing to developing and reviewing their child’s educational plans.

Parental Consent

Written permission provided by parents or legal guardians before certain actions can be taken by the school district, such as conducting evaluations, providing services, or sharing confidential information.

Physical Therapy

A related service provided to students with disabilities to address mobility issues, improve gross motor skills, and enhance physical functioning and coordination.

Post-Secondary Goals

Future-oriented objectives included in the IEP for students with disabilities, focusing on their transition from school to post-secondary education, employment, independent living, and community engagement.

Present Levels of Performance

A description of a student’s current abilities, strengths, weaknesses, and needs, as documented in their IEP, providing the foundation for setting appropriate goals and determining necessary services and supports.

Progress Monitoring

Ongoing assessment and measurement of a student’s progress toward their annual goals, using data to inform instructional decisions, modify strategies, and track their overall academic and functional growth.

Progress Reports

Periodic reports provided to parents that document a student’s progress toward their IEP goals, outlining achievements, areas of improvement, and any concerns or recommendations.

Procedural Safeguards

Protections and rights afforded to parents and students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), ensuring they have access to information, participate in decisions, and seek recourse in case of disagreements.

Related Services

Supportive services provided to students with disabilities as outlined in their IEP include speech and language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, counseling, and transportation.

Self-Advocacy Skills

The ability of students with disabilities to understand their strengths and weaknesses, communicate their needs, make choices, and advocate for themselves in educational settings and beyond.

Sensory Integration Disorder

A condition characterized by difficulties in processing and responding to sensory information, leading to challenges in daily activities, social interactions, and learning.

Service Delivery Model

The specific way in which special education services and supports are provided to students, considering factors such as the type and severity of disabilities, student needs, and available resources.

Speech and Language Therapy

A related service provided to students with speech and language disorders, aiming to improve communication skills, including speech production, language comprehension, expression, and social communication.

Special Education

This is a specially designed instruction and tailored related services provided to students with disabilities to address their unique needs, enabling them to access the general education curriculum and make progress in their educational goals.

Supplementary Aids and Services

Additional supports, accommodations, or resources provided to students with disabilities in general education settings to enable their participation, access to the curriculum, and overall educational success.

Transition Plan

A component of the IEP that outlines the specific services, supports, and activities to help students with disabilities successfully transition from one educational setting to another or from school to post-secondary education, employment, or independent living.

Transition Services

Coordinated activities and support provided to students with disabilities to assist in their successful transition from school to post-secondary education, employment, independent living, and community engagement.

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